Lin Wen-tang of Chinese Taipei produced a bogey-free five-under-par 67 to share the opening round lead with countryman Hung Chun-kang at the Yeangder Tournament Players Championship on Thursday.
Lin, a six-time Asian Tour winner, and unheralded Hung, who turned professional two years ago, held a slim one-shot lead at the US$500,000 Asian Tour event.
Miguel Tabuena of the Philippines, who finished second last year, Shaun Norris of South Africa, Panuphol Pittayarat of Thailand and India’s Khalin Joshi tied for third place alongside Chinese Taipei duo Hung Chien-yao and veteran Lu Wen-teh.
Defending champion Prom Meesawat of Thailand opened his campaign with a solid 70 to trail the leaders by three shots at the Linkou International Golf and Country Club.
Lin’s decision to focus on his health and fitness earlier this year is starting to pay-off as he fired five birdies in the calm morning conditions to be in the hunt for a first victory in 2015.
“I had a good rest last night so I felt good today. I’ve been playing really well on the local circuit with many top-10s. I’m still without a win but I feel healthy and ready to contend for the title,” said the Chinese Taipei ace.
“I haven’t played much on the Asian Tour because I used to get tired very easily when I travel too often. Now I’ve been going to the gym for half a year and it has helped a lot. I’m 42 this year so I can’t keep playing and travelling,” said Lin.
The 24-year-old Hung, who started from the 10th tee, played without any expectations and charged into the surprise joint lead thanks to four straight birdies starting from the 16th hole.
“I didn’t think about the result. I didn’t force any birdies. I just took my chances when I could. I played very well on the front nine and I was not disappointed when I three putted for bogey on the 14th hole but I was a bit sad when I missed the four feet eagle putt on hole one,” said Hung.
Tabuena believes he is a more matured player since his heart-breaking play-off defeat to Prom Meesawat of Thailand last year. The 20-year-old dominated the local circuit in the Philippines, winning four times and securing the Order of Merit title this year.
“Last year was a bit of a heart break for me but you have to go through this experience. I’m definitely a better golfer now. I gained a few yards this year and I’m learning how to take advantage of that. It has been a combination of fitness and using the right equipment,” said Tabuena.
Panuphol, who is nicknamed Coconut by his family, fired three birdies against one bogey in each half and hopes to continue his form as he searches for a first Asian Tour Victory.
“I felt comfortable out there. I felt good about the swing and putting. I hope the feeling stays the same throughout the week. I really hope something good will happen this week. I started the week good and I have to keep doing what I’ve been doing,” said the 22-year-old.
Scores after round 1 of the Yeangder TPC being played at the par 72, 7108 Yards Linkou GcC course (am – denotes amateur):
67 – LIN Wen-tang (TPE), HUNG Chun-kang (TPE).
68 – Miguel TABUENA (PHI), Shaun NORRIS (RSA), Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA), HUNG Chien-yao (TPE), LU Wen-teh (TPE), Khalin JOSHI (IND).
69 – HSU Hao-sheng (TPE), Keith HORNE (RSA), Gaganjeet BHULLAR (IND), Scott BARR (AUS), Niclas JOHANSSON (SWE), SUNG Mao-chang (TPE), Giwhan KIM (KOR).
70 – HUANG Tao (TPE), Natipong SRITHONG (THA), LU Wei-chih (TPE), Prom MEESAWAT (THA), LEE Chieh-po (TPE), Phachara KHONGWATMAI (THA), Antonio LASCUNA (PHI), Christopher CANNON (ENG), Jaco AHLERS (RSA), Akinori TANI (JPN), Berry HENSON (USA), Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA), Pavit TANGKAMOLPRASERT (THA), Niall TURNER (IRL), Kieran PRATT (AUS), Poom SAKSANSIN (THA).
72 – Zaw MOE (MYN), Michael TRAN (VNM), HSIEH Tung-shu (TPE), Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA), Jeunghun WANG (KOR), Siddikur RAHMAN (BAN), Brett MUNSON (USA), Pannakorn UTHAIPAS (THA), Nitithorn THIPPONG (THA), Anthony KANG (USA), Lionel WEBER (FRA), Unho PARK (AUS), KAO Shang-hung (TPE), Mardan MAMAT (SIN), LEE Sung (KOR), Thammanoon SRIROJ (THA), Bryce EASTON (RSA).